Subject: Do game console companies want us?
To: None <>
From: Andy R <>
List: port-dreamcast
Date: 12/16/2003 09:11:45
I'm not sure what mailing list this belongs on, so
I'll start here since this seems to be the most active
of the game console lists.

This may all be a bunch of bull, I don't know. I'm
just forming opinions based on what I've read and the
limited knowledge of computer architecture I have.

Do game console companies actually want NetBSD ported
to their machines? My answer is "I don't know."

I've been reading some stuff online, and trying to
make sense of it all.

The answer seems to be to follow the money. If a
company is staking part of it's claim on it's
development toolbox for that particular machine, then
the answer has to be no. Or possibly if they view
operating systems running on their hardware to be
potentially damaging in the future. More on that

Problem for them is, most of these CPUs that they are
using already have NetBSD ported to them. So all "we"
(editorial we, I am not a developer) have to do is
either get documentation on the device (which may or
may not be available due to reasons stated in the
above paragraph) or reverse engineer it and pow,
another NetBSD/<fill this in>.

A sort of strange thing has happened in the game
console industry lately though. They all seem to have
switched (or are switching) to the IBM PowerPC chip.
Nintendo is already there, but Sony and (ahem)
Microsoft have already acknowledged that they are
going to (or are probably going to) use the PPC chip
in their next generation game consoles. 

Could this be an admission that there is some kind of
unified toolkit that they will use (gasp, possibly

What are they going to use to develop with? Sony
doesn't seem averse to Linux, after all they offer it
for the PS2. But in typical fashion for Sony, they
make quite a pretty penny on it, as they do with all
"peripherals". So they seem neutral to running an
"operating system" on their hardware, as long as they
can make money. Sega didn't seem to give official help
to NetBSD, but they weren't exactly trying to prevent
it either. I don't know what future the Nintendo
GameCube has in store. But it seems that as long as
their is a viable I/O device (the BBA on Dreamcast
being barely viable), and some kind of method to boot,
and possibly a keyboard, the thing can run any OS that
wants to run on it. So NetBSD will probably run on all
these things as long as it's viable. Which means these
companies probably have to actively prevent a port of
NetBSD by making confusing hardware or something. But
why do that? They can save money on their toolkit by
using NetBSD. UNLESS, that is, they have built the
tookit into their revenue stream. Or they have chosen
to use "another" open source OS for development or

Or maybe there are unseen pressures on these
GameConsole companies not to replace PCs? I don't
know. The hardware out now can certainly work very
well as a surrogate PC. The PS2 does. The GameCube may
do it even better. And that sucker goes for $99 new,
and $69 used. Buy a network adapter, keyboard, mouse,
possibly external hard drive, and that makes a very
rockin little computer that you can sit in front of
your (increasingly higher quality and resolution) boob
toob and use.

And as these things shrink into cheap used commodity
status, they might even work as "workhorse" hardware
that can be put into use for very varying purposes
from supercomputer clusters (don't laugh, IBM is using
the same chip in the GameCube in a "cheap"
supercomputer right now), to education people from
countries that wouldn't otherwise be able to afford
computers. That seems like a pretty good use for these

Ahh, but how to fit this into capitalistic tendencies?
(I'm not knocking capitalism.) Maybe these companies
could give us some special code that "unlocks" the
thing for programming after they have already
announced or released their next generation device?
Seems like a good opportunity to endear themselves to
a new computing generation. Or something.

And since NetBSD is so portable and stable, it just
seems like a natural for all of this as long as the
hardware companies want it to be so. Do they?

I don't know. I'll go ahead and drift back off here.
I'd love to hear discussion on what the future of game
consoles and NetBSD could be though. If for no other
reason, it's a fun and cheap way to learn about an
operating system.

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